- Spain take on Japan with the trophy at stake
- La Rojita lost to the Asians in the final of the 2014 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup
- Patri Guijarro explains why it might be Spain’s turn this time
Spain have faced a number of tests at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup France 2018 and passed each of them with style:
✅ They won Group C, topping the section from fellow finalists Japan
✅ They reached the last four of the competition for the first time after beating Nigeria in the quarter-finals
✅ They beat hosts France in the semis, despite ending the match with ten players and conceding a late penalty
La Rojita have one more test awaiting them, however, and it is the biggest one of all: Friday’s final against Japan.
Many of the Spain players have unfinished business with the Young Nadeshiko. Eleven of their 21-player squad formed part of the side that lost 3-0 to the Japanese in the semi-finals of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016, while its four oldest members were also on the losing side against Japan in the final at Costa Rica 2014.
Patri Guijarro, one of that quartet, has her sights set on a happy ending this time: “It goes without saying that there’s a score to settle. Though we’ve beaten them twice since then – two years ago (at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016) and here again – both those wins came in the group phase, which is not the same.”
The midfielder, who is playing a vital role for La Rojita with her goals and her contributions in defence, is in no doubt as to Spain’s objectives: “This is our chance to set the record straight.”
In their second match at France 2018, Spain saw off the Japanese thanks to a solitary Carmen Menayo goal, though the Young Nadeshiko have been in imperious form since that setback.
Grounds for optimism
The Spanish are not lacking in confidence themselves, as the in-form Guijarro explained: “I think we’ve got an even chance in the final. We came through a very tough semi-final and that makes us stronger.”
Giving her reasons as to why this final could be very different to the one in Costa Rica, she added: “Japan always play with a lot of intensity, and we have to be honest and say that maybe we lacked that intensity at U-17 level. They overwhelmed us in Costa Rica. They were very fast and skilful, though I think we’ve improved since then and have developed more than they have.”
How has the Spain No8 developed? After collecting her thoughts, Guijarro smiled and said: “I’ve improved in a lot of ways, especially mentally. I know how to overcome difficult moments now. I’m also better at getting into the right position to give the team balance and at getting forward. And in terms of intensity I’ve also improved a lot thanks to playing at Barcelona and in the national team.”
Led by their star player, this new and improved Rojita are hoping Friday will see the completion of a mission that has been a long time in the making.